Trinity’s associate pastor Lynell related the following experience to me:
A family called her to the bedside of one of their dying family members. In the course of the visit, the dying person’s son asked that his mother be baptized. Lynell spoke with the woman and asked her if she wanted to be baptized. The woman said yes. One of the family members had some blessed water and the family gathered to witness the baptism. The woman appeared to relax. It was clear that she did not have long to live.
The moment was wrought with emotion and a sense of the Spirit being present. After the baptism, the woman’s brother started crying. He sobbed. Family members gathered around him to give comfort because they thought he was crying because his sister was dying. Lynell asked if she could help him. He said he wanted to be baptized too. His wife was with him and stood there dumbstruck and joyous. She was baptized and had been praying for his conversion for years. Lynell drew him aside and they discussed his understanding of baptism. His story convinced her that his reasons for asking to be baptized were sound.
The man and his wife would be returning to a fairly solitary life in Montana. There are very few faith communities where they live. So there is no opportunity to ask him to go back to his home congregation for formation in some form of the catechumenate. His faith community was with him at the time in the immediate and extended family.
Lynell baptized him as well. Then, in celebration of such a momentous day, the other brother, in whose home they were all staying, fixed a feast and all rejoiced.
Lynell knows her baptismal theology. She is an active minister in the catechumenate process. She understands what adult initiation is all about. She does not take any of this lightly. And she presided at both baptisms knowing that what she was doing was meet and right.
I was recently on the NA Forum chat line and a person asked if it was OK to baptize an adult outside of the Easter Vigil. Her situation was that the family was all present at a certain time, the catechumen had been in formation for quite awhile, and they were basically waiting for Lent to begin. Of course it was “OK” to baptize! Such a question indicates that a certain amount of rigidity may be seeping into our reformation of initiation. The story of Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch needs to be part of our ongoing mystagogia in this ministry.